Apart from being a lovely village with a duck pond, Otford in Kent has a bit of an unusual feature. It has an intriguing model of the Solar System. This means you can discover the position of our planets and get to grips with the space between them, without leaving earth!
Built as part of a millennium project, Otford’s Scale Model of the Solar System claims to be (probably) the largest scale model in the world. And unless you knew what it was, you’d probably miss it! But why was it built? Well, it was built to show the vastness of space. And the scale of this model is 1:4,595,700,000 (1mm = 4,595.7km).
What does the model look like?
It’s mostly made up of white pillars that look a bit like trig points. The Sun is represented by a 303mm diameter dome and each planet by a scale engraving on a flat disc.
It may not actually be the biggest model, but it is certainly unique. Firstly, it shows the planetary position at a moment in time. And as it was part of a millennium project, it’s probably fitting that it accurately depicts the positions of the planets at midnight on 1st January 2000!
If you are keen to visit this interplanetary marvel, then you’ll find the inner planets at the far end of the Recreation Ground, behind the car park. And if you fancy visiting every planet in the Solar System – in order of its proximity to the Sun – it will take almost two hours, at a leisurely pace. And there’s a handy map of all the locations, so you don’t miss them. However, if you fancy including some of the nearest stars too, that could take a little longer, as they’re scattered across the continents in places such as Los Angeles and the Falkland Islands!
Take a walk around the Solar System
If you fancy joining a guided walk instead (just in Otford, not around the world), then you can join Rob Smith from Footprints of London on Tuesday 8th June.
On this walk you will visit Bishop’s Palace gateway first, before heading towards the heart of the Solar System model, visiting each planet in turn. Plus, there’s a rather nice country pub to relax in on your return from your trip into space.
The walk is about three miles in total. And this may not be a sentence you’ve heard before, but the area between Neptune and Pluto can be a little muddy, so boots (or non-fancy shoes) may be handy.
Otford itself is a charming village, not far from London. It’s situated below the North Downs and was once home to a palace belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury – until 1537, when Henry VIII took it. Part of the gatehouse is still there today. And that, along with other beautiful timber framed buildings, can be seen on the walk.
If you are going on this guided walk, you will need to book in advance and read the important COVID-19 info first.
Of course, you could take your own walk around this delightful curiosity.
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